Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Are you absolutely sure about that?

One of the most depressing times for me as a parent was when my children became teenagers. It seemed that I went from being the source of all knowledge to the dumbest person on earth overnight. Every thirteen year old in school was instantly smarter than I. During the ensuing years, it seemed that almost every bit of wisdom I espoused was questioned. I no longer could be considered as a source of truth. Truth became what all my children’s friends believed it to be.

Thankfully, this period in my children’s lives ran its course and in due time, my knowledge some how mysteriously returned (when they reached the age of 25 or so). Now, I never quite acquired the level of knowledge I had prior to their teen years, but at least I was once again viewed as a credible source of truth. Well this begs the question: What is truth? Did I ever have any ability to provide truth or for that matter, does anyone? Does truth even exist? This seems to be one of the most perplexing dilemmas of the 21st century. This is especially important in today’s relative thinking world where truth has been redefined to mean anything you want it to be. In other words, absolute (genuine) truth really does not exist because truth is only what you want to make it. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me.

Why is understanding what truth really represents so important? What difference does it make anyway? Here’s the thing: Unless we can establish the fact that a genuine, absolute truth exists, we can’t even establish the existence of God. For unless there is truth, there can be no God! Of course, this question about the existence of truth is not just a modern one. It is perhaps the most asked question of all human history. It was the question that Pilate asked Jesus before he sentenced Him to death (John 18:38).

So then, what is truth? Simply, truth is what corresponds to reality. If our understanding of truth is abstract, then it will correspond to an abstract reality. This is truth in the postmodern world. However, concrete truth is truth that corresponds to concrete reality. In fact, it is impossible to deny this definition of truth without using it. You see, we can not say that a concrete or absolute truth does not exist without making an absolute statement about truth (“Absolute truth does not exist.” – Are you absolutely sure about that?). Therefore, we can't deny the fact that we can know actual reality.

In fact, it is a self-defeating statement to claim “reality can not be known” because in order to make such a statement requires us to know something about reality. A self-defeating statement is one which fails to meet its own standards of acceptability or validity. The statement that we cannot know reality contains a statement about reality. Since it claims reality can’t be known, it fails to satisfy its own standard of acceptability or validity because you have to know something about reality in order to know if you don’t know it. Since it is self-defeating to say we can’t know reality, then we must be able to know reality. That makes truth concrete because it corresponds to concrete reality.

Here is a simple way to prove this is true. Examine it using one of the principle laws of logic – The Law of Non-Contradiction. This law states that opposites cannot both be true. A statement can’t be both true and false. It must be one or the other. The idea that there is no absolute truth violates this law because one must make an absolute true statement in order to say there is no absolute truth. Therefore the Law of Non-Contradiction is undeniable. Even those who deny it have use it to prove their claim.

Here’s the truth: There is such a thing as reality and it is possible to know the truth about it. Therefore, real truth is knowable, absolute, and represents the truth even if we don’t know it or refuse to recognize it as such. Truth is not what some organization or leader tells you it is, it is not what your friends say that it is, is not what culture proclaims it to be, nor is it what we may want it to be. Truth is what corresponds to reality. If absolute truth exists, and it does, then we can know it and we should make every effort to do so. Jesus said that if you know the truth, it will set you free (John 8:32). So seek the truth and live a life of freedom. But here is the really good stuff: Jesus also said that He is the truth (John 14:6) and consequently He is able to set us free (Galations 5:1). If you really want to know the truth and to live a life of truth, look to Jesus.

For more information about "truth" I suggest you read the book by Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976, 1988, 2007) or drop me a note at

Dr. Richard Tompkins